Part I - February 18, 2010 -- 26 grand cru Chablis, Meursaults, Corton Charlemagnes and a flight of top 1ers from Chassagne and Puligny

The first night, held on February 4, 2010 at Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles, was devoted to grand cru Chablis, significant premier crus, and Corton Charlemagne. The second night (Feb 18) will be devoted to the grand crus from Batard Montrachet, Bienvenues Batard Montrachet, Criots Batard Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet. The third night will be mostly Montrachet with some selected super-expensive wines (e.g. Coche Corton) added in.

The fourteen attendees for Part I of this year's tasting were: Ron Movich, Michael Zadikian, Howard Horwitz, Wes Jennison, Joel Deutsch, John Brincko, Peter Funsten, Brian O’Toole, Jay Boberg, Brian Devine, Ron Greene, Maureen Downey, Terry Taketa, and me (Don Cornwell). We also had periodic visits by Jay Perrin (Campanile GM) and Taylor Parsons (Campanile Wine Director).

Chef Erica Lins did a very nice job of matching up several different courses with the five flights of white burgundies. The food was excellent. My personal favorites were the seared Santa Barbara Spot Prawns that went with the first Chablis course and veal with mushrooms and foie gras with the Meursaults. Taylor and Jay and their colleagues very nicely orchestrated the food and wine service for the evening. On to the wines....

Appetizer Course
Totten Oysters on the Half Shell with Bitter Almond Mignonette
Salmon Confit with Mustard Seed Aioli & Chives

1990 Pommery Cuvee Louise Magnum
Color between light and medium gold; light citrus and floral aromas with some very slight toasty background notes; round, citrus and green melon notes, good acidity and some toasty/melon notes in the finish. Not quite classical, but interesting to drink. 91

Flight One- Premier Cru Chassagne/Puligny (served single blind)
Ravioli Giganti with Spinach & Lemon Butter

#1-[2002 JM Pillot Puligny Clos du Cailleret]
Very light yellow color; lightest of the first flight; light citrus, very low threshold fusel oil (so low it adds an element of complexity); very good acidity; this is lacy and has a lot of structure; nice minerality; the finish is quite long but mostly an effect finish. (No votes) 93

#2-[2002 Ramonet Chassgne Ruchottes]
Light yellow gold color; some reduction sulfur here that never completely faded – “dirty lees” said my tasting neighbor Maureen Downey; this has light texture on the palate; it is elegant, but clearly was much lighter in weight and a more obvious 1er than some of the others in this flight; this had a somewhat lacy light mineral finish which was the best feature. {NB A couple of tasters liked this better than I did and after the wines were revealed, I can say that this was one of the least impressive bottles of the 2002 Ruchottes I’ve had in the last year.. This bottle came from my cellar. A couple of prior bottles of this struck me as a slightly advanced. I’ve clearly had better bottles of this and it has ranged from 91-93 over the last year.] (0/0/0/0/1) 91

#3-[2002 Carillon Puligny Referts]
Somewhere between light and medium gold color; this had some sweet basil and floral scents with a little SO2 showing—which dissipated with air. This wine had very good depth and grip on the palate, which grand cru weight fruit and stunning minerality. More depth and grip on the palate than any of the others in this flight except for #5. Very long and prominent minerality here. I really liked this. (Leflaive Pucelles?) (0/0/0/1/0) 94

#4-[2002 Leflaive Puligny Pucelles]
Light gold color; floral, with hints of mint and white honey aromas; some very light SO2 apparent here too. Very light Chassagne-like fruit; seems quite simple and thin though expansive on the palate; there is a somewhat thin minerally finish. Decent, but I just didn’t think the flavors lived up the promise of the aromas. (Ramonet??) (0/0/0/1/0) 91

#5-[2002 Sauzet Puligny Combettes]
Color-wise, this was two clicks short of medium gold; clearly the darkest of the first flight. This has some forward floral tones and a definite hint of oak toast which I thought detracted a bit. This had very good acidity and fairly big lemon/lime flavors which finished with some nice mnerality to go with that citrus. My second favorite of this flight. (No votes) 93

Flight Two – Chablis from Valmur, Preuses and Blanchots (served single blind)
Seared Spot Prawns with Fresh Pappardelle, Tomato Confit & Thyme

#6-[2002 Raveneau Chablis Valmur]
Very light yellow color; strong sweet basil aromas with an exotic spice –perhaps cardomam?; very bright, sweet honey dew melon flavors with some underlying minarlity; a good deal of richness on the finish here for Chablis. My third favorite of this flight. Group Rank: Tied for 10th (0/0/2/0/0). 93

#7-[2002 Fevre Chablis Valmur]
Light yellow gold color; sweet floral and asian pear aromas; sweet fruit flavors with some minerality; lots of richness as well as minerality on the finish. My fourth favorite of this flight. (No votes) 93

#8-[2002 Raveneau Chablis Blanchots]
Light yellow color; light licorice and acacia flowers aromas; quite round, fruity asian pear flavors with some moderate minerality and very good acidity; this has a very strongly mineral finish which is quite long. Despite the unusually deep fruit, this had a very classic grand cru Chablis finish and incredible grip. Great wine. Group Rank: Tied for 8th (0/1/0/1/2) 94+

#9-[2002 Dauvissat Chablis Preuses]
Color between light and medium gold; light pineapple and pear aromas; similar flavors on the palate with very good acidity and some modest minerality; this also had a very classic minerally finish without any hint of those tropical fruit notes that showed up initially. This is like a mix of Cote de Beaune from a ripe vintage and Chablis. I liked this particularly for the wonderful minerally finish. My second favorite of this flight. (No votes) 94

#9a-[2002 Billaud-Simon Chablis Blanchots VV]
Between light and medium yellow gold color similar to #9; aromas of “juicy fruit” gum (ascorbic acid??); strong sweet fruit character and good acidity on the palate; lacking the classic mineral finish though. Ironicially, while this isn’t prototype Chablis, this probably would have been good by itself, maybe as ringer in the premier cru flight, but didn’t measure up as well with the others. A ringer brought by Peter Funsten. (No votes) 92?

Flight Three-Chablis Clos (served single blind)
Scallop Stew with Guanciale & Roasted Rose Finn Fingerlings

#10-[2002 Dauvissat Chablis Clos]
Very light yellow straw color; incredibly saline, clean scallop shell aromas with hints of sweet basil; very bright wine with a moderate lemon crème palate and incredible minerality and great acidity; the finish was tremendously long and expansive minerality. Wow. Group Rank: 1st 49 pts. (5/3/2/3/0) 96

#11-[2002 Fevre Chablis Clos]
Light yellow gold color; some light peach and lemon aromas; on the palate it was concentrated lemon crème flavors with a very long finish of lemon-crème and pear flavors with an undertone of minerality. Surprisingly powerful fruit here. Long finish of sweet fruit and minerals. Not classic style, but I sure did like this. My third in this flight and fifth favorite of the night. (0/0/0/0/1) 95.

# 12-[2002 Raveneau Chablis Clos]
Very light yellow-green color; sweet citrus and seashells aromas and an almost spearmint component; on the palate this wine is very concentrated but somewhat locked up – some sweet lemon/lime tones and lots of minarlity lurking beneath it; this is obviously great wine and needs more time to show its charm. Tight minerally finish is very impressive. My second favorite of this flight and third favorite of the evening. Group Rank: 4th (1/1/4/1/0) 95+

# 13-[2002 Christian Moreau Chablis Clos]
Light yellow gold color; some pear and sweet basil aromas; this is a more forward wine than the others in the flight and it exhibits some apple tones and shows the markers of the early stage of maturity in terms of some very light toast flavors; apple pastry and some modest minerality in the finish. Nice but probably at its peak. (No votes). 92.

Flight Four-Meaursault premier crus (and one village wine-served single blind)
Grilled Veal Chop with Mushroom Duxelle, Foie Gras & Chardonnay Fondue

#14-[2002 Lafon Meursault Perrieres]
Medium gold color; some diesel oil (light), SO2 and pain grille aromas; this came across as rich on the palate, some pear/apple pastry and a little mature; after about an hour of air this showed much better -- finer, sweeter fruit, and much longer than it was earlier. Group Rank: Tied 10th (0/1/0/1/0) 93

#15-[2002 Bouchard Meursault Perrieres]
Medium full gold color; oxidized aromas – cereal grains and hints of sherry; good acidity here, but this is clearly oxidized we all agree; also has sherry and cereal grains flavors. Although “partially oxidized,” this was not really drinkable as the oxidative character was too strong. (No votes) DQ -oxidized

#16-[2002 Boillot Meursault Perrieres]
Medium gold color; pain grille and a bit of diesel oil again; some strong minerality on the palate here, over some rich, lemon/lime and pastry flavors. This is rich and mostly mature. A great wine for drinking today. Group Rank: 12th (0/0/1/0/1) 93.

#17-[2002 Lafon Meursault Charmes]
Between light and medium yellow gold color; some lemon/lime aromas with very light toast components; rich lemon custard flavors with very good minerality. This is fairly mature wine. Good acidity on the finish. Extremely nice but at its peak now. Group Rank: 7th. (2/0/0/0/2) [N.B. Both Lafons showed some obvious markers of maturity. I liked the Charmes better than the MP on this occasion, although I suspect that there are better bottles of the MP out there than the one we had tonight.] 94

#18-[2002 Matrot Meursault Perrieres]
Light to medium yellow gold color; aromas of pears and white flowers; good depth of pear fruit and some richness, though I find some obvious alcohol on the mid-palate and the finish. This was probably allowed to get a little too ripe. (No votes) [N.B. No oxidation in this wine, but I’ve had terrible luck with the sibling wines from Puligny Combettes and Puligny Chalameaux purchased at the same time.] 92

#19-[2002 Roulot Meursault Perrieres]
Very light yellow straw color – clearly the lightest color of the flight; aromas of key limes and white flowers. On the palate this had some fresh lime, and lots of minerality, and good bit of lemon butter. This had length and breadth and tons of minerality. The very minerally finish goes on forever. (Roulot MP?) My favorite wine of the night by a narrow margin. Group Rank: 3rd 32 points (2/3/2/2/0) 96+

#20-[2002 Coche Meursault Rougeots]
Light yellow gold color; aromas of citrus, seashells and some light vanilla bean (Coche?); viscous, dense sweet pear and citrus fruit with very good acidity and lots of minerality too. A really awesome wine and I suspect it is Coche. My second favorite wine of the flight and fourth favorite overall. Group Rank: 2d 40 pts (3/4/0/2/5) 95

Flight Five-Corton Charlemagne (single blind)
Chicken & Prawn Pot Pie

#21-[2002 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne]
Color between light and medium gold; sweet floral and fresh lime aromas; rich lemon pie flavors with some acidity. Very nice, but this didn’t have the minerality of the prior flights though. Group Rank: 5th (1/2/0/1/0) 93

#22 [Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne]
Color between light and medium gold; some sweet key lime aromas and background flowers; fairly rich fresh lime pie flavors with a good deal of depth and good acidity. I liked this. Group Rank: Tied for 8th (1/0/0/1/1) 94 [N.B. I have to add a note of caution here. The 96, 99 and 2000 BdM Cortons all did very well at this tasting in prior years and yet today the oxidation rate on those vintages is 50% or more out of my own cellar—drink early to be safe.]

#23 [Girardin Corton Charlemagne Quintessence]
Light yellow gold color, some lemon crème pie aromas; rich, lemon crème pie flavors as well; very good acidity, a little minerality on the mid-palate and a very long lemony-mineral finish. Very nice. Group Rank: 6th (0/0/4/0/1) 94

#24 [Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne]
Medium gold color; brioche and ripe pear aromas; this is slightly advanced, and a little toasty on the palate but a decent wine. If this showing is indicative, drink up. (0/0/0/0/1) 92? advanced

#25 [Jadot Corton Charlemagne]
Color between light and medium gold; advanced, honey and light sherry notes in the aromas; the flavors are better than the aromas and this is drinkable although flawed by the obvious oxidation DQ/89? oxidized

Dessert Course
Roasted Pear with Honey-Blue Cheese Ice Cream & Candied Hazelnuts

1997 Rieussec Sauternes
Fairly deep gold color; it worked with the dessert but I was too distracted by the other wines to pay any serious attention here 91?

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked: 0/26
Oxidized: 2/26 (8%)
Advanced: 1/26 (4%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 3/26 (12%)

For the second year in a row we had a very low rate of oxidation on night one. I must candidly say that it was much better than I expected. I've experienced a lot of advanced and in some cases oxidized 2002's over the last 18 months, so my fear was that we would experience the same phenomenon even with the top wines and impeccable provenance. We could see more oxidation on night two.

I am suspecting some of you who have followed these results over the past few years may see the trend line getting better in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and be inclined to think that the premox problem has been brought under control. I think that would be an unwarranted or premature assumption. Premature oxidation first became a serious issue in 2004/2005 and the changes made by producers to try to avoid oxidation began with the 2004 vintage which was being bottled At least in my experience, the incidence of prematurely oxidized bottles continues to expand among the 1996, 1999 an 2000 vintages. Wines that were stars in this tasting in past years (e.g. Bonneau du Martray) exhibit a huge percentage of premixed bottles today.

Part II - February 18, 2010 -23 grand crus from Bienvenues Batard, Criots Batrad, Batard and Chevalier Montrachet

On Thursday, February 18, we tasted 23 hyphenated Montrachets from the 2002 vintage (and one 2002 California chardonnay ringer in the Batard flight) at Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles. The fourteen attendees for Part II of this year's tasting were: Michael Zadikian, Howard Horwitz, Joel Deutsch, John Brincko, Peter Funsten, Brian O’Toole, Brian Devine, Alan Weinberg, Ron Greene, Terry Taketa, Maureen Downey, Greg Gregory, John Tilson (Editor of the Underground Wineletter, formerly known as the Underground Wine Journal) and me (Don Cornwell). We also had frequent visits by Taylor Parsons, Campanile's Wine Director.

The menu for the evening was put together by Campanile's Executive Chef/owner Mark Peel. My favorite course, and I think everyone else's judging by the comments, was the quail course with the first flight of Chevaliers. While I would have liked the first two courses on their own, we struggled a bit with the strong aromatics of the Shrimp Bisque on the first course and the texture/flavors of pea coulis with the second course. Taylor Parsons, Campanile's Wine Director, again flawlessly orchestrated the food and wine service for the evening.

Appetizer Course
Fried Oyster and dry vermouth remoulade

1990 Alain Robert Reserve Tete de Cuvee Magnum
Medium gold color; rich, lots of fruit, a little nuttiness and some real depth and minerality here; long minerally finish. My kind of Champagne 94

Flight One- Criots and Bienvenues Batard (served single blind)
Crab Ravioli with shrimp bisque

#1-[2002 Lamy Criots Batard Montrachet]
Light gold color; some floral aromas with a very light spearmint undertone; asian pear flavors with good acidity and some minerality; long sweet minerally finish Group Rank: Tied for 9th (0/1/0/0/1) 93

#2-[2002 Leflaive Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Very light yellow color, second lightest of the flight, unbelievably corked aromas -- “corked plus” as someone said; it also had cardboardy flavors too. [N.B. The first corked Leflaive bottle I’ve ever encountered; the same for several others] (No votes) DQ -corked

#3-[2002 Fontaine-Gagnard Criots Batard Montrachet]
Medium full gold color; some botrytis aromas and some light sherry tones; lightly oxidized but still drinkable; very rich tropical wine with sweetness -- the botrytis is obviously showing, and it is a bit advanced as well (the oxidation undoubtedly). I don’t usually care for botrytis in white burgundy, but this was a pretty nice wine despite its botrytis and partial oxidation. (Fontaine Criots?) (0/0/0/0/1) 92 Partially oxidized.

#4-[2002 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Medium yellow gold; some citrus and a hint of Ramonet spearmint; elegant wine, some lemon-lime and excellent minerality; very nice minerally finish. (Ramonet BBM?) Group Rank: 7th (1/0/0/0/3) 93

#5-[2002 Pernot Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Light gold color -- the lightest of this flight; floral, honeysuckle, and some light SO2; really great minerality here on the palate and some soft underlying fruit; very long minerally finish. (Leflaive?) Group Rank: 8th (0/0/1/1/2) 94

#6-[2002 Carillon Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Medium yellow gold color; forward, floral and light hints of honeysuckle aromas; forward fruit which is fat and almost tropical; it is rich but very racy wine; a good deal of minerality and this has a very long, lacy minerally finish. My favorite of this flight by a very narrow margin. (Carillon?) Group Rank: 6th (2/0/1/0/2) 94

Flight Two – Batard Montrachet (served single blind)
Butter-Poached Sturgeon withtruffled english pea coulis

#7-[2002 Ramonet Batard Montrachet]
Between light and medium yellow gold color; some green apple aromas and very light spearmint; sweet green apple flavors and apple pastry and an absolutely amazing level of minerality for a Batard; very good acidity; incredibly long minerally finish. (Seems obviously to be Ramonet) Group Rank: First -- 42 pts (1/3/6/3/1) 96

#8-[2002 Fontaine-Gagnard Batard Montrachet]
Between light and medium yellow gold color; some white flowers and some slightly tropical fruit notes in the aromas; bright pear flavors with a good deal of richness; a long but ultra-elegant finish which is more like Montrachet than Batard. Pretty impressive. [N.B. In retrospect, I’m surprised that this didn’t get more votes.] (0/0/1/0/0) 95

#9-[2002 Niellon Batard Montrachet]
Medium gold color; rich, peachy aromas; fat, tropical and peach fruit flavors; more alcohol than the others; slightly too big, too tropical and a little too over the top for me. Maybe the best candidate for my ringer, but doesn’t taste like Ramey to me. (No votes) 92-advanced

#10-[2002 Sauzet Batard Montrachet]
Nearly medium yellow gold color; some white flowers and a little oak toast here; lemon-lime fruit with some mid-palate richness but again marked by some light toast in the flavors; this is notably more mature than the other bottles in this flight despite the acidity. Nice, if you don’t mind the toast, but drink relatively soon. (0/0/0/1/1) 93

#11-[2002 Ramey Hyde Chardonnay—my ringer]
Between light and medium gold color; some floral and green apple aromas and a hint of peach melba; bright green apple flavors with good richness on the mid-palate; excellent acidity and a long buttery, slightly minerally finish. My third wine in this flight. [N.B. This wine was presented as a ‘mystery Batard’ because two members of this panel had previously identified it as a Batard when served blind. Not a single negative comment was made about this wine and nobody thought it was atypical, though Maureen Downey did note that she thought it had a slightly higher percentage of new oak than the other wines. Some people were really amazed it was from California and everyone seemed to have this wine in the middle of the flight. Pretty remarkable. One panel member said he was sure that this would have gotten some top five votes, including his own, had I not revealed it as the ringer until after we voted. Bravo to David Ramey for proving it is possible to make California chardonnay that really does stand up to Burgundy’s best at 7.5 years of age). 94

#12-[2002 Leflaive Batard Montrachet]
Light gold color; this had some SO2 and hints of creosote, which blew off with time, later showing white flowers and some green apple; bright, great acidity in this wine; some citrus and green apple flavors, but with some fat and a buttery texture; slightly disjointed; as it sat it seemed to develop incredible volume, and fat; it was by far the biggest wine of this flight, but it was a little disjointed overall and not the best on this occasion. (0/1/0/0/0) 93+?

Flight Three - Chevalier Montrachet I (served single blind)
Crisp Flattened Quail with black trumpet mushrooms, sliced almonds, potato puree

# 13-[2002 Henri Boillot Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; big-scaled white flowers aromas and some pear; very nice asian pear and citrus fruit flavors with an exotic leeche fruit like component; nice depth and a rich long mineral-driven finish. Overall, a very nice wine. (No votes) 94

#14-[2002 Girardin Chevalier Montrachet]
A couple of clicks short of medium gold color; some white flowers and a hint of oak; some sweet pear and citrus flavors; surprisingly fat for a Chevalier and not nearly as minerally as the others. (0/0/0/1/0) 92-advanced

#15-[2002 Latour Chevalier Montrachet Demoisselles]
Between light and medium gold color; some white flowers and lime in the aromas; the flavors are slightly odd/off – a bit flat on the mid-palate but this had some nice minerals in the finish. (No votes) 91?

#16-[2002 Colin-Deleger Chevalier Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold color; aromas of white flower and hints of lime; some asian pear flavors with some richness and power like Batard; nice wine, but lacked the classic citrus, backbone and minerality of a Chevalier. Given the above, I think this is reasonably mature but not showing signs of obvious advanced age. (No votes) 93

#17-[2002 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow-green color, clearly the lightest of the flight; aromas of light citrus; light citrus and pear fruit with good acidity and incredible minerality and subtlety -- something missing for the most part in the other wines in this flight; tremendously elegant and long finish. Seemed to tower over most of the wines in this flight. Group Rank: Third (34 pts) (2/3/2/3/0) 95

#18-[2002 Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Demoisselles]
Two clicks short of medium gold color; some notably advanced peach and toasty aromas; this isn’t right; clearly advanced peach and oatmeal flavors; I think this is partially oxidized but there didn’t seem to be a consensus to that effect. (No votes) 88 Partially oxidized (in my view)

Flight Four-Chevalier Montrachet II (served single blind)
Roast Loin of Veal with sweetbread & hazelnut stuffing, savory apple sauce

#19-[2002 Niellon Chevalier Montrachet]
Light gold color, but still probably the second darkest of this flight; aromas of peach and whisky barrel; flavors of light citrus with a hint of peach; light on the palate, fairly ethereal, had good minerality and acidity; a bit different for its aroma profile, but excellent wine. Group Rank: Tied 9th (0/0/1/1/0) 95

#20-[2002 Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color, but the deepest color in this flight; some citrus aromas and some slight cornmeal aromas; some lemon-lime flavors with good acidity, which seem slightly disjointed/partly muted; however this has a very long, elegant minerally finish which is clearly the best feature here. Some hope of more improvement. [N.B. I was astonished when this was revealed as the Leflaive. This was my least favorite wine of the last flight and the second consecutive under-performing bottle of this wine I've had.] Group Rank: Tied 9th (0/0/1/1/0) 93+?

#21-[2002 Jean-Marc Pillot Chevalier Montrachet]
Very light yellow-green color; some fresh lime and charming white flowers aomas; key lime and lemon custard flavors with great minerality on the mid-palate and finish; very elegant wine. Wow. My second favorite wine of the night. Group Rank: 5th (0/2/1/3/0) 96

#22 [2002 Ramonet Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; white flowers and spearmint (Ramonet); bright citrus flavors oriented a little more to lime than lemon; fabulous acidity and layered minerality on the mid-palate; extremely long sweet citrus and minerals finish. My favorite wine and this has more room to improve. Wow. Group Rank: 2nd (39 pts) (5/3/0/1/0) 96+

#23 [Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet Cabotte]
Between light and medium gold color; white flowers and citrus aromas; bright lemon-lime flavors and great minerality; long minerally finish that isn’t quite as compelling as #21 or #22. Very nice. Group Rank: 6th (1/1/0/0/1) 94

#24 [Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow color; white flowers and meyer lemon aromas; quite lemony, long and elegant, and very minerally, long elegant finish, and yet the finish seemed a little more awkward at the end of the night. Group Rank: 4th (3/1/1/0/3) 94

Dessert Course
Vanilla Creme Caramel, poached winter fruit

1948 Masandra Collection White Muscat
Golden brown color; aromas of honey and whole wheat waffles; quite sweet and rich on the palate with a buttery texture and long, elegant finish. 94

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked: 1/24 (4%)
Oxidized: 1/24 (4%) by group consensus or by my count 2/24 (8%)
Advanced: 2/24 (8%)
Total oxidized + advanced: 5/24 (21%)

Cumulative stats for nights one and two:
Corked: 1/50 (2%)
Oxidized: 3/50 (6%) or 4/50 (8%)
Advanced: 3/50 (6%)
Total oxidized + advanced: 7/50 (14%)

There were some big upside and downside surprises from this tasting.

On the upside: The across-the-board performance of the 2002 wines has been remarkable. It is a truly exciting vintage as everyone had hoped. The performances of the two Ramonets exceeded the expectations created by the intial published reviews and the regular Bouchard and the Pillot Chevalier were really exciting wines.

The incidence of actual oxidation has been the lowest ever. Colin-Deleger Chevalier, Girardin Chevalier, Fontaine-Gagnard Batard and Lamy Criots were not oxidized and that alone is a cause for celebration.

I produced proof to my skeptical colleagues that it is theoretically possible to produce California chardonnay that will last 7.5 years, show youthfully at 7.5 years, and please/fool even the most ardent burgundy collector. (With thanks to David Ramey.)

On the downside: The Leflaive wines were all relatively disappointing versus their peers. I can’t ever remember that happening. And I experienced my first corked bottle of Leflaive. We unfortunately had oxidation and advanced wines from some of the usual suspects: Fontaine-Gagnard (Criots), Jadot (Chevalier Demoisselles) and Sauzet (Batard).

Part III -- March 4, 2010 -- 11 Montrachets plus Coche-Dury Corton and Meursault Perrieres and Leroy Corton Charlemagne

On Thursday, March 4, 2010, we held the third night of our fifth annual large vintage tasting/oxidation check at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica. This was our annual "Mostly Montrachets" night which included 11 Montrachets from the 2002 vintage plus Cortons from Coche-Dury and Leroy and the Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. For the "Mostly Montrachet" night ten attendees were happily present: Wes Jennison, Michael Zadikian, Howard Horwitz, John Brincko, Peter Funsten, Brian Devine, Alan Weinberg, Maureen Downey, and me (Don Cornwell). We also had frequent visits by Brian Kalliel, Melisse's Wine Director. We did one thing a little differently this time. While everyone knew the overall list of the wines in advance, the wines to be included in each flight were not announced in advance. We revealed the wines tasted after each flight (so by the third flight everyone could figure out what was left to be tasted.)

As usual, Chef Josiah Citrin utterly impressed us with the menu and subtle food match ups with the wines. Each year Josiah seems to outdo himself on the menu for the Mostly Montrachet dinner. The food was simply dazzling and the service was impeccable. Melisse is simply the best restaurant in Southern California -- period. A "must do" visit for visiting winos and something we locals can be grateful for.

Appetizer Flight
Wagyu Tartare in Citrus Cone
Smoked Salmon on Potato Blini
Lamb Brochette with Sweet Garlic Emulsion

1988 Alain Robert Le Mesnil Reserve Tete de Cuvee Chamagne from Magnum (disgorged in Spring 2008)
Light yellow color; some brioche and blood orange in the aromas; citrus and some light brioche on the palate with very good acidity and a nice orange citrus and minerally finish with a tiny bit of astringent phenol (almost tannin) left to resolve. In magnum this still needs time. 94

Flight One- Montrachet (served single blind)
Maine Lobster with Sunchoke, Brown Butter Onion Soublise

#1-[2002 Fontaine-Gagnard Montrachet]
Medium yellow gold color; some sweet white flowers and honey aromas; rich, forward, fairly dense and somewhat nutty and clearly advanced; this is going oxidized fast I fear. By the end of the night, it was showing clear signs of partial oxidation, though it was still drinkable and somewhat enjoyable. [N.B. After this was unveiled, John Brincko and Michael Zadikian reported they’ve had much better bottles recently. However, Michael Zadikian reported a few days later that one of his bottles showed some similar advanced/off aromas but was better overall than the bottle we had this night.]. (No votes) 92?/late partial oxidation

#2-[2002 Blain-Gagnard Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; citrus and white flowers aromas as well as some light SO2 showing; bright, light citrus and pear fruit flavors with a ton of minerality and a very long elegant finish. Profound. My number one wine of the night without question. Group Rank: 1st 37 pts (4/3/1/1/0) 96

#3-[2002 Jadot Montrachet]
Light gold color; aromas of asian pear and a haunting exotic tropical flower aroma; pear and light citrus flavors a bit lighter than most of the others, but very elegant; this had an unbelievably long and very minerally finish which was its best feature by far. I must have liked this better than some of the others (0/0/0/0/2) 95

#4-[2002 Henri Boillot Montrachet]
Medium gold color; some pear and melon aromas with an overlay of anise and light oak; very rich, big-scaled apple/pear flavors; a very fat wine with a long fat finish. [N.B. Given the color and richness and relative maturity of this wine, this is not a wine I would lose track of in my cellar and would probably drink it sooner rather than later given the track record on the 99-02 Boillot vintages.]. (0/0/0/0/2) 94 advanced

#5-[2002 Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet]
Medium gold color; orange blossom and acacia flowers aromas; the wine is rich, somewhat honeyed, but quite drying on the palate – an effect similar to excessive wood tannins in a red; this showed slightly hot from high alcohol as well. I liked the aromas but not the flavors or the finish. Not a good example of Montrachet. (No votes). 90 advanced

Flight Two – Montrachet and Corton from Coche and Leroy (served single blind)
Ris de Veau with Celtuce, Chanterelle Mushoom and Truffle Sauce

#6-[2002 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne]
Light to medium yellow color; some obvious SO2, jasmine and hints of diesel fuel; the palate here didn’t seem quite together; it was lower in density than some others and at first hard to evaluate; after some time in the glass it became extremely minerally and elegant; this seemed to have an upside potential Group Rank: 7th (1/0/1/0/2). 93+?

#7-[2002 Leroy Corton Charlemagne]
Light to medium yellow gold color; prominent reductive aromas which took a long time to clear to pear and citrus; very bright, light pear flavors with phenomenal minerality and elegance; Maureen Downey says the finish has some parmesan and sour cream elements. This one has upside potential too. Group Rank: 2d 28 points (3/1/1/3/0) 94+

#8-[2002 Lafon Montrachet]
Light to medium yellow gold color; aromas of white flowers and a touch of honey; this had fairly dense asian pear flavors with the slightest hint of a tropical fruit with good acidity and lots of minerality both on the mid-palate and the finish; the finish was amazingly long and minerally. Large scaled Montrachet Group Rank: 3d 25 points (0/2/4/2/1) 95

#9-[2002 Louis Latour Montrachet]
Color between light and medium gold; aromas of light sage and asian pear; on the palate, this has rich asian pear flavors and very good minerality; the finish is fairly long. After this wine was in the glass a while it seemed to fade a bit, hence a split score for this one. (0/0/0/0/1) 94/93

#10-[2002 Girardin Montrachet]
Between medium and full gold color; badly corked aromas and some sherry and crab shell aromas; later got some gingerbread with the cardboard. We all agreed this was corked, and personally I think this was a “twofer” – both corked and oxidized, but most couldn’t get past the corked aromas to make the call. (No votes) DQ-corked and premox

Flight Three-Montrachet and Coche MP (served single blind)
Turbot en Croute de Sel with Potato Mouseseline, Shellfish Jus

#11-[2002 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres]
Light yellow gold color; corked aromas but this is much less corked than #10; there was obviously a great wine underneath that that got slammed by the corked aromas. (No votes) DQ-corked

#12-[2002 Ramonet Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; strong spearmint aromas (clearly Ramonet); the mint is very prominent on the palate, many times more prominent than normal; this has fresh lime and pear fruit with very good acidity and minerality. The strong mint signature really detracted from the otherwise long minerally finish. I hope the other bottles are better than this.Group Rank: 4th(2/1/2/1/0) 93/94?

# 13-[2002 Sauzet Montrachet]
Light to medium gold color; white flowers and citrus aromas; dense and powerful pear/citrus flavors with some modest minerality; this is light years better than the Ramonet on the palate; nice lingering pear/citrus finish with some minerality. Group Rank: 6th (1/2/0/2/0) 95

# 14-[2002 Bouchard Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; citrus and pear aromas; this is charming and elegant on the palate – the perfect weight – dense enough to grab your attention yet somehow elegant and almost weightless. This had pear and citrus flavors with solid minerality on the mid-palate and a very long, long fruity and mineral finish. This also has some upside left. Group Rank:5th (0/2/2/2/3) 95+

Dessert Course
Lemon and Blackberry Tart with Candied Walnuts and Blackberry Sorbet

1986 Chateau Climens
Deep gold color; forward, buttery botrytised aromas and flavors; quite rich apricot and buttery pastry flavors on the palate. Long sweet finish. 93

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked: 2/14 (14%)
Oxidized: 2/14 (14%)
Advanced: 2/14 (14%)
Total oxidized + advanced: 4/14 (29%)

Cumulative stats for all three nights:
Corked: 3/64 (5%)
Oxidized: 5/64 (8%) or 6/64 (by my count) (9%)
Advanced: 5/64 (8%)
Total oxidized + advanced: 11/64 (17%)

Based on the total percentage of oxidized and advanced wines (17%), this is easily the best performing vintage from 1996 through 2002. [Only 2004 has a lower percentage to date]

We all went into Night Three with very high expectations. On paper, based on the reviews published in the International Wine Cellar and Burghound, this was the highest rated set of whites we've ever had. There were some exceptional wines, but in my view there were some relative disappointments given the high expectations that I had.

The biggest disappointment was the Fontaine-Gagnard Montrachet which, once again, fell far short of its initial ratings. This had been one of Allen Meadows two highest rated wines of the 2002 vintage, but you would never have known it tasting the bottle we had. Sadly my colleague and good friend Michael Zadikian reported another flawed, advanced (but relatively better) bottle opened a few days after the tasting.

The two Coche-Durys and Ramonet were also disappointments. Overall, I thought the highs were generally higher on night two.

The overall oxidation incidence was between 6% and 9% over the three nights -- based on my assessment, the same overall number (9%) we had with the 2001 vintage. While we can point to anecdotal evidence of higher SO2 use in the 2000 and 2001 vintages as a possible cause of relatively low oxidation rates in those vintages, it is much harder to explain 2002. I suspect that it has something to do with a much greater than normal level of dry extract in the wines. Philippe Prost from Bouchard has reported that the vintages with the greatest levels of ripeness (e.g. 1997 and 2003) have no problems with oxidation. The density and level of dry extract in 2002 is obviously much greater than the lighter and racier vintages of 1996 and 1999. I can only surmise that the added density may act as a further buffer to oxidation.

As I said at the end of the notes for Night Two, I'm suspecting some of you who have followed these results over the past few years may see the trend line getting better in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and be inclined to think that the premox problem has been brought under control. I think that would be an unwarranted or premature assumption. I had many premier crus wines in the year preceding these tastings which showed as advanced or oxidized and some of the worst performers from an oxidation perspective in past years are poor performers again in 2002 (i.e., Fontaine-Gagnard, Montille, Clos de Lambrays, Matrot and some of the Girardins and Jadots.) Moreover, premature oxidation first became a serious issue in 2005 and the changes made by producers to try to avoid oxidation did not begin until the 2004 vintage, which was being bottled in late 2005/early 2006 shortly after the problem had been identified publicly. At least in my experience, the incidence of prematurely oxidized bottles continues to expand among the 1996, 1999 an 2000 vintages. Wines that were stars in this tasting in past years (e.g. Bonneau du Martray) exhibit a huge percentage of premoxed bottles today.